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Internet Archive Adds a Treasure of Cheap LCD Handhelds to Its Emulation Collection

During CES, the only piece of electronics with which I spent the most time, apart from my laptop and my camera, was a handheld Mattel Dungeons & Dragons Computer Fantasy Game . This decades-old device caught the attention of John Biggs and myself through a few glasses as we navigated his mysterious interface (eventually killing the dragon, thank you). These inexpensive handhelds, sold as impulse purchases in pharmacies and Toys & # 39; R Us (RIP), are the last thing to be collected and emulated entirely by MAME and Internet Archive.

At first, when I heard that, I was happy but not particularly impressed. These are great little devices – games that are mostly terrible, though terribly nostalgic – but how complicated can they be?

Oh, quite complicated, it turns out that …

Unlike a NES ROM, these little gadgets do not have their palettized graphics, their isolated logic, and so on. No, each of these things is a strange and unique little machine. They must be carefully dismantled and their logics slashed by experts.

On the one hand, the graphics are not numerically counted pixels. They are etched in the liquid crystal system, to be activated when a load passes through them. In other words, all the graphics are there on the same screen, arranged as puzzle pieces.

You may remember Space Jam that looks like this:

But the LCD layer looks like this:

All that is wired in the electronic part, where the logic is to tell which pieces to illuminate and when.

I will not go into details – read the interesting article on the Internet Archive if you are curious. Basically, it was a ton of hard work by a group of dedicated people on the MAME crew. Incidentally, thank you to them and to all who have maintained this project for years and years.

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The only thing missing is the interface – that is, the plastic. These things were excellent not because they were really good games, but because they cost $ 10 and your kid would stay busy for a few hours trip while he was beaten again and again by the first 3 enemies. Cheap plastic cases and flashy decorations are part of the fun.

Nobody wants to play this:

But this?

I would definitely make a bug on my mother for having me. In fact, I think I did it.

You can view game scores that teams have already scanned on the Handheld History page, and if you're in Emulatin mood, check out other gazillion systems you can play in the browser in Arcade Internet. Archive and Living Room Console.